I got vaccinated over the weekend (the ‘one-and-done’ J&J version) and so am beginning to process what this might mean for my 2021 plans. The emerging CDC guidance gives me hope that I can hang out with my granddaughter again soon, for which I am truly grateful. I will welcome the opportunities to wander into more restaurants and stores than I have been willing to explore in more than a year.
But it is on the topic of travel that I find myself really fixated. I cannot WAIT to really go somewhere…almost anywhere. I have very much appreciated the amazing supply of travel content available for consumption at home and I’ve taken considerable advantage, ‘traveling’ both to places familiar (Italy) and not-as-yet experienced (Brazil). As one who has had the good fortune to visit many fascinating places for work or for family adventure, it is hard to choose where to focus my daydreams for a first post-pandemic adventure. I know that many destinations are not ready to let U.S. travelers in – and given our poor initial phase of response to the pandemic, I cannot blame them. But I am hopeful that doors (and airports) will begin opening to us again soon. And I hope I will be ready – apprehensive but ready.
Part of the preparation must be recognition that the world is a much-changed place since just 2019. Not only because each part of the world has been impacted by the ravages of the virus, but also by the uneven economic toil that was unleashed, and the political and business realignments that have resulted. It feels urgent to reconnect to people in faraway locations, to re-establish common ground we had shared in the time before 2020. Whether family, friend or business colleague, we’re going to need to assess our contacts’ wellbeing, and I long to do so in person. Fact is, I expect that even traveling between regions of the United States will feel different than before this pandemic experience. And I have written before about my perception that we are in a New New World, where the enthusiasm for U.S. visitors, whether for business or pleasure, is not what it once was around the globe. Does not necessarily mean we are not welcome at all, but that our experience as preferred ally has entered a different, more complicated time in global dynamics. I expect to feel it wherever I go – and look forward to learning how best to navigate, for business purposes, sure – but mostly for my enrichment as a curious person.
And during this same time, the realities of how our planet is being impacted by climate change seem to have been laid bare – or perhaps being confined to our homes, watching the news and streaming documentaries with a frequency new to most of us, the vulnerability of our beautiful Earth is more comprehensible and impossible to ignore. The recognition of this vulnerability is being acknowledged by industry and the pace of adaptation is dramatically quickening: electric cars, renewable energy, innovations across the spectrums of both energy production and energy use. So even as I daydream of resuming travel, the obligations of reducing our impact on the planet weigh on me – as they should on each of us as consumers, as decision-makers for organizations, as advocates in public policy.
I am frankly saddened to know that I will likely never be as carefree as I once was about jumping on an airplane to travel. I am humbled by the knowledge that I was not as aware as I should have been – about our collective inability to more equitably share the potential of globalization, nor about the consequences of our inattention to the capacity of the planet to adapt, recover and regenerate.
On the other hand, it is exhilarating to recognize that we all learned a great deal in 2020 – about ourselves, about each other, and about our potential for innovation. I am excited about what we can do together. See you soon.